May 27, 2002
Disgruntled Mutts

Eugene Volokh of The Volokh Conspiracy links to a Washington Post story about the increasing number of Americans who report their race and ethnicity as 'American' on their census forms. I would add three points to his statistical argument:

1. As Volokh says, an increase from 2.2% to 3.0% over ten years isn't much. At that rate, it will take four more censuses for the number to pass 10%. Of course, the rate may be increasing exponentially, but it would take more than two data points to come up with even a rough guess. I wonder how far back the data go.

2. Someone told me long ago that the Census Bureau lists anyone who refuses to answer the race question as 'white'. This seems plausible, though unlikely to be confirmed officially. Too bad it doesn't work. One of my cousins has put her race down as 'American' at least once, and the Census Bureau probably would find 'white' inaccurate for someone who is of half-Japanese and half-German/Dutch ancestry. I don't know whether she's taken advantage of the new 'mixed' category: it's not the easiest question to ask.

3. Variations are possible. Last time around, I put down my race as "All-American Mongrel", with a space or two to spare. No repercussions as yet that I know of, though I may now be on some federal craplist. I was thinking of the line from Stripes where Bill Murray says (I quote from memory): "What is an American? Someone whose ancestors were kicked out of every decent country in the world." It's something we have in common with Israelis and Australians.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at May 27, 2002 12:48 AM

I think I put "Other" on my ACT application (and "Druid" for religion). But then, the schools weren't exactly knocking down my door.

Posted by: Mac Thomason on May 27, 2002 12:34 PM

Doc, how do you think I feel, with my combination Argentine/Portuguese/Ukranian/Spanish/Indonesian/Austrian/ English background? I just call myself "mutt" and be done with that.

Posted by: Sasha on May 27, 2002 05:04 PM

1. One thing that is good about America is that we are all mongrels of various sorts. Europe is still fighting old time historic battles among each other.

2. I have heard of people listing a lot of other stuff such as human homo-sapien and other correct answers.

Posted by: Cal Ulmann on May 29, 2002 02:06 PM

On the other hand, a friend of mine points out that the immigrants to America had something that the vast majority of their countrymen and women did not have--the desire to change their lives completely.

Think how much courage it must take to uproot yourself and your family, get on a boat, and come to a place where you may have known no one or only one or two people--frequently without much more than a few changes of clothes and some precious heirlooms.

That's an American. And that's why this nation is so great. We got the cream of the crop. Emma Lazarus wrote a nice poem, but the "huddled masses" were made up of pretty good stuff, I think.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish on May 30, 2002 11:27 PM